1861: Tory MP cleared of fondling himself at his window

Sir John Shelley (1808-1867) was a Conservative politician who served several terms in the House of Commons between 1830 and 1865. Shelley was “also a sportsman of some renown on the turf and with the trigger”, an “eminent agriculturist” and, from all reports, something of a ladies’ man.

In June 1861, Shelley, then the Tory MP for Westminster, appeared in a London court charged with gross indecency. Several witnesses testified seeing Shelley expose and fondle himself in the window of his apartment in St James Street. According to Mrs Susan Stafford:

“I was at the window and Sir John… came to his drawing room window. He had no trousers on but loose drawers and a white or light-coloured dressing gown. I distinctly saw him expose his person. He looked direct to [my house] and used his hands incidentally, and then kissed his hands towards our house. There were ladies and servants at our windows.”

Mrs Stafford’s housemaid also testified in a similar fashion. Miss Mary Griffiths, a relative staying with Mrs Stafford, said under oath that she saw Sir John:

“…standing at the window; he appeared to have some loose gown on and drawers but his legs were bare… He exposed his person and did it again several times in the course of the afternoon.”

Maria Hartley, a nurse, said she saw:

“Sir John at the first floor window, that nearest Piccadilly. I had known him by sight before… I saw him put his hands down and open his drawers and I turned away… I had seen him that day do it two or three times. I have seen him frequently since do it… On those occasions I saw his private parts naked.”

Sir John Shelley’s barrister responded by claiming the defendant had disrobed to his underwear due to the heat; the witnesses, he claimed, had accidentally spied him through a thin curtain. The judge accepted this, noting that Sir John was a “gentleman” and “it was only an illusion”. He dismissed the charge and Sir John “left the court unstained in character by this case”.

Source: Reynold’s Newspaper, London, June 30th 1861. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.